Rhiw Natural History




Andrew Clarke


June 2006

1st June

Although Iíve seen a regular pair commuting around the village for the last few weeks, a group of 6 Chough circling the radar station was the first noticeable group for a while.

This evening I attended a lecture on Climate Change by Rod Gritten, Ecologist for the Snowdonia National Park at Menter y Felin Uchaf (http://felinuchaf.com/index.htm) which was arranged as an introduction to a 20 week course 'Towards a Sustainable Future' at this innovative local environmental education centre. For anyone interested in joining this free course check the website.

Rod highlighted various aspects of climate change and it's well documented effects on local, national and global wildlife and people.

For example, many bird species are nesting earlier, migrants are arriving sooner and staying later in the year, frog spawn is found weeks ahead of normal, mountain species are retreating north and Mediterranean species are colonising these islands.

Although some species are adapting and even prospering the overall scenario is one of huge biodiversity loss and massive impacts on humanity. Global warming is now recognised by a well respected consortium of environmental organisations as the most serious issue facing our wildlife.   

Strolling around the centre we had fantastic views of a near albino Brown Hare! This white individual(s) has been resident on site for several years and last year I saw one in the fields below Rhiwlas and the derelict Tyddyn Castell. No sightings in the village this year but I wonder if anyone else has noted them?

Llŷn seems to be a real stronghold for this species considering how scarce they are throughout Gwynedd and the rest of Wales. Substantial declines have been noted throughout the country since the 1960's. The North Wales Wildlife Trust (http://www.wildlifetrust.org/northwales) conducted a survey in 1997/98 and found this to be widespread, but only in low numbers throughout the region. On the way home I noted another three individuals.


2nd June

Awoke to a perfect morning - blue skies, light winds and sunshine. My breakfast was interrupted by a call from my friend Steve Stansfield (or Steve Enlli as I call him), Warden of Bardsey Bird & Field Observatory with news of a 'mega' on the island - a Black-headed Bunting. This bird should be on its breeding grounds in Greece and had overshot its migratory path and ended up on this rocky island. Also present were an amazing host of unusual migrants which had presumably taken advantage of the end of the run of cold northerly winds this spring and headed our way. Following a Montagu's Harrier and Red-breasted Flycatcher on the 1st, today Serin, Golden Oriole, Hoopoe, Turtle Dove, Red Kite and the bunting had turned up.

Before long I was rescheduling my paperwork and jumping on the boat in Porth Meudwy, Aberdaron (itself an excellent birding location). It's a long time since I visited the island and as an ex-resident it holds a special attraction. I don't do much twitching (i.e. chasing after rarities) at all these days but it was a good excuse to cross the water. After several hours Steve and I had worked our way through the withy beds and lowland fields to the north end of the island when I heard an unfamiliar call and saw the bunting sat on a gorse bush only 10 metres away. Cracking views were had by all the assembled birders of this stunning bird (photos will be posted here shortly when I receive them from Steve).

For anyone who has not been - make the journey! The bird observatory (www.bbfo.org.uk) is now over 50 years old and welcomes visitors from beginners to advanced field naturalists; see their website for full details.


3rd June

More bird news - a Red-breasted Flycatcher reported in Porth Meudwy. A brief visit failed to produce the bird, highlight was great views of a Cuckoo and distant Puffins on the Gwylan islands through the telescope.


4th June

More glorious weatherÖ and a wander around the village. A Garden Warbler was singing near Conion with a pair of Stonechats feeding young in the gorse here. Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers called in the grounds of Plas yn Rhiw amongst more common woodland species.

The waters in Porth Neigwl were refreshing after my walk and my sunbathing on the beach was interrupted by a presumed parasitic Ichneumon Wasp dragging a huge caterpillar along the sand - the wasps lay their eggs in the caterpillar which hatch out and eat the host from the inside!

Heard a Little Owl calling from near the church at Llanfaelrhys this evening - a new local site for me.

There was an unconfirmed report to Birdguides (www.birdguides.com) of a very unseasonable female Velvet Scoter at Porth Neigwl today. I would be grateful for further information.


6th June

Butterflies were the highlights of a quick morning walk over to Penarfynydd, with the best a presumed Dark Green Fritillary zooming past at high speed. These are rather scarce in Gwynedd and this is known to be one of the best sites in the region. A migrant Painted Lady was the first for a while, and Wall Browns were frequent. The local Kestrels have been busy collecting food for their young - I know of at least two pairs in the area with one at the west end of Porth Neigwl and another near Penarfynydd.

A Green Woodpecker was calling from my kitchen this evening and eventually showed well on a fence post. Meanwhile the Swallows have started nest building in the garage - a very late breeding attempt, no doubt as a result of the cold spring. 


7th June

The sea mist was soon gone as the sun warmed up. Unfortunately most of the day was spent in the office but I managed to break out in the afternoon.

As I glanced up at 1505 hrs I noticed a large raptor cruising north over Creigiau Gwineu. Something seemed Ďnot quite rightí for it to be one of the local Buzzards so I reached for my binoculars to see a fantastic Red Kite! Although I have heard of occasional historical records from Rhiw, and have seen birds previously over Aberdaron, this was a village first for me. Although the views were not conclusive the large pale area on the upperwing coverts suggested that it was an immature bird in its second calendar year.

Steve Enlli later informed me that there had been a wing-tagged bird on the island earlier in the day and that he had heard reliable reports of five Kites over Uwchmynydd on Monday 5th June.

Still scorching hot, the waters of Porth Neigwl were inviting so once daughter was back from school we headed down there for a swim and picnic. Six Curlews, a Shelduck and a 2nd year Black-headed Gull were present in the area below Treheli.  

A mixed flock of House & Sand Martins hawked insects while several Swallows were collecting sandy mud off the beach for nest construction. An adult and juvenile Raven were sat on the cliffs by their nest on the eroding cliffs.


8th June

A Siskin south over the house was the first for a while.


9th June

Visited a friend in Neigwl and was pleased to see a singing Lesser Whitethroat in his garden. Iím always struck by how scarce this species is throughout Gwynedd, I see most of my annual birds as late autumn migrants, although I did find a nesting pair in Rhiw last year.


10th June 2006

Aber Geirch, Edern

57 Kittiwakes on and around the outfall pipeline on the south side of Porth Dinllaen Golf Course

Porth Ysgaden to Porth Ychain

1 Chough

2 Manx Shearwaters

7 Fulmars on nests

10 Shags on nests and one group of 10 on the rocks

3+ Guillemots

Rock Pipits

1 Wheatear

Painted Lady butterflies all over the Sea Pink, and all over everything in fact.

Contributed by Andrew Spottiswood.


11th June

Strimming a path through my top field was interrupted by a superb Clouded Yellow butterfly whiz past. These stunning migrants from southern Europe occasionally arrive in huge numbers but more often only a few are seen in late summer. This is by the far the earliest Iíve ever noted.

Heard from a friend of another record at Foryd Bay, Caernarfon this week as well as a major influx of Painted Ladies, Red Admirals, Silver Y Moths and Hummingbird Hawkmoths.

As well as the usual Wall Browns, Small Tortoiseshells etc a large fritillary species was seen and a Painted Lady.

Andrew Spottiswood reports the following sightings:

Yr Eifl

2+ Choughs

Small Heath butterflies

Aber Geirch to Porth Towyn

1 Reed Warbler in brambles on the undercliff at Penrhyn Cwmistir

2 Sedge Warblers

100s of Manx Shearwaters and Kittiwakes with fewer Gannets and Razorbills

2 Clouded Yellow butterflies

1 Wall Brown


13th June

Visiting botanists David & Myra Blay from Nottingham sent the following news:

ďThe attached photograph was taken on the roadside just below Bodernabwy above Aberdaron on 13thlesser_butterfly_orchid_01.jpg (64768 bytes) June. There are other orchids on the other side of the road (Early Purple? Southern Marsh?). Whilst on a walk from Bodernabwy around the lanes to Anelog we managed to identify 68 different flowering plants, not bad for a couple of hours?Ē


A great photograph of the Lesser Butterfly Orchid, and an excellent species list. Many thanks for your contribution. 

A Tawny Owl was reported by my neighbour Pete on the telegraph post this evening. They are scarce on this side of the mountain although Iíve heard a few around the Plas in the past.


14th June

A walk produced two more singing Lesser Whitethroats in the lanes between Felin Uchaf and Rhoshirwaun.


15th June

A superb Hummingbird Hawkmoth fed in the roadside verges by Ty Croes Bach with a Brown Hare in the adjacent fields. A Golden-ringed Dragonfly, several Red Admirals and swarms of hoverflies were feeding around a large stand of Hemlock Water Dropwort near Meillionydd Bach, while yet another Lesser Whitethroat sang by Felin Uchaf. 


16th June

Porth Colmon to Porth Widlin, Lleyn Peninsula

1 Mediterranean Gull 1st-summer west past Penrhyn Colmon at 0515hrs

8 Kittiwakes on rocks at Porth Ty-mawr and many more feeding close in

13 Sandwich Terns 6+7 west off Porth Widlin

6 Choughs pr with 4 juveniles on a stack at Porth Ty-llwyd

1 Peregrine Falcon flew from Porth Widlin towards Garn Fadryn.

Porth Oer to Mynydd Anelog

Quail - one audible from the summit of Mynydd Anelog at 1730hrs sounded like it was on the path just below the summit so I started walking towards it...and walking...and walking and it was actually in the field behind Tyín Anelog Farm way below. By the time I got back to the car-park at Porth Oer it was about 2130hrs and I could hear another Quail in the field opposite near the wooden gate. The two sites are nearly two miles apart so definitely two different birds.

1 Peregrine Falcon flew towards the lookout on Mynydd Carreg after sunset

6 Sedge Warblers one at the ponds north of Porth Orion and at least 5 at Porth Oer

1 Hummingbird Hawk Moth Porth Orion

1-2 Emperor Dragonflies [m] at a series of small ponds next to the coastal path just north of Porth Orion

5+ Broad-bodied Chasers [4m 1f] frequently chasing each other, mating and ovipositing at the same ponds

3 Large Red Damselflies [2m 1f - type melanotum] at the same ponds with swarms of Azure Damselflies.

Contributed by Andrew Spottiswood.

This evening I wandered up onto Creigiau Gwineu then down along to Graig Fawr, disturbing an adult Hare in one of the patches of burnt gorse here. The light was fading on the way home on the lane below Bryn-y-Fran when I noticed a young Hare loping along the tarmac towards me. It came to about 30 metres away sniffed the air then turned and went back the way it had come. This continued for several minutes, with the leveret coming closer and closer.

I decided to freeze, only moving my eyes as I watched the animal coming closer over the next few minutes. I was shocked when it came right up to my feet then continued past me, only a metre away!


17th June 2006

Rhiw / Mynydd Penarfynydd

1 Hummingbird Hawk Moth

1 Emperor Dragonfly [m] over a very small quarry-pool Ė just south of the church.

Dark Green Fritillary butterflies are ridiculously common everywhere on Mynydd Penarfynydd.


1 Little Owl on telegraph poles and wires at Cwrt at the start of the track to Porth Meudwy

9 Choughs mobbing a Buzzard at Parwyd

Contributed by Andrew Spottiswood.


20th June

Six young Starling flew over Lon Las, a sure sign that midsummer is here. Flocks of local breeding birds gather to feed on the pastures of Llŷn, although their numbers never reach the huge flocks of migrants from the continent which spend the winter here.


21st June

Porth Ysgaden

European Storm-petrel - one flew west in 1 hour early morning; also 3 Puffin and 300 Manx Shearwater.

Contributed by Rhys Jones.


22nd June

Porth Ysgaden

European Storm-petrel

3 past today 

Contributed by Rhys Jones. 

Iím ff to Felin Uchaf tonight and we are soon all hard at work gathering the materials to make an outdoor bread oven Ė clay, straw and earth. Itís amazing what effort is required to mix these with water then pack them onto a willow basket frame but itís looking good by the time I leave and Iím looking forward to returning when itís been fired up and is ready for action.

Highlight of the evening for me was hearing a Reed Bunting singing from near the new roundhouse building here. Like so many farmland birds this species has declined severely throughout Wales in the last 20 years or so as a result of agricultural intensification and the extensive drainage of wetlands.


24th June

This evening a family of recently fledged Little Owls showed well on the walls and fences around Tyddyn Castell. Iíd never heard the youngsters calling before - a screeching noise very similar to Barn Owls, and quite distinct from the `kee-ew` calls of the adults. They soon attracted the attention of the local Blackbirds who were mobbing them constantly.


25th June

Porth Ysgaden

14 European Storm-petrel flew east in one hour today 

Contributed by Rhys Jones.


27th June

Mike Crick reported a Barn Owl feeding by the doctorís surgery in Botwnnog at 03:00 hrs.

Iíve received an intriguing report of a certain rare mammal Ė from Dylan Sion. His full description follows.

ďbroun, four legs, when on two about 10ft tall, aka broun bareĒ

Are you sure there were four legs Dylan? I would like to see a full description including photographs to be convinced.

The last known record from these islands was way back in 500 AD and hunting led to extinction. Agreed, parts of Llŷn are wild but could a small remnant population of Ursus actos have survived? Could it have been a yeti or Chewbacca from the Star Wars trilogy?! Or maybe youíre a clown and the bear is from a circus ;-) Anyway, nice to hear from you! No doubt weíll be hearing about Ďbig catsí soon as well?


28th June

An evening walk to Penarfynydd to fish and a coupe of small Pollack were the only reward after a strenuous trip. This is not for the faint hearted with plenty of gorse, bracken and steep cliffs to negotiate. Iím glad I did not have to carry any big fish back with me!

A couple of Gannet patrol offshore and a pair of Rock Pipits patrol the, er, rocks.

A Hummingbird Hawkmoth was feeding on Birdís Foot Trefoil by the point here.


30th June

A fishing trip down to Porth Llawenan on a beautiful sunny evening and the unimproved grassland by the sea are buzzing with insect activity. Lots of different butterflies including Meadow Browns, Fritillaries, Small Tortoiseshell and Painted Lady are around while a variety of crickets/grasshoppers sing away.

There are loads of wildflowers down here; the last of the Thrift is in bloom, Bloody Cranesbill is growing in places and the scent of the mixed grasses and herbs such as Birdís Foot Cranesbill, Wild Thyme and Ladyís Bedstraw is strong. Can anyone guess what the latter plant was used for in days of old? Iíd love to find out more about the traditional uses of local plants Ė if anyone has any stories please let me know. Thereís a great article already by Sue Frisbee here (http://www.rhiw.com/hanes_pages/herbal/herbal_tradition_of_rhiw1.htm) but Iím sure thereís more to learn.

Three Curlew and an Oystercatcher are hanging around on the rocks here.

A family party of five Chough drift along the rocks towards Porth Ysgo as I make my way along to the tip of Penarfynydd. Here the fishing is better with three Mackerel and more Pollack. A tame Grey Seal hangs around offshore waiting for any leftovers and trying to eat my catch as I reel in!


Many thanks to Andrew for this section of Rhiw.com

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